Residents express concern with proposed transmission lines

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Many Westfield residents understand the need for more transmission lines and a substation to provide energy because of the city’s growth. But some are asking Duke Energy chooses between two of its three proposed options for the transmission lines.

Duke Energy plans to construct two new transmission lines and one new substation near the intersection of Ind. 32 and Moontown Road on the Westfield/Noblesville border. The power lines will originate from the new substation and connect to an existing 69-kV transmission line south of the substation and the Westfield Northeast substation to the north. The new northern line will be approximately 3 miles long and the southern line will be approximately 2 miles long, depending on the final routes selected.

Residents are most concerned about an option where transmission lines are constructed near the Midland Trace Trail.

Westfield resident Todd Ruhl’s house backs up to the Midland Trace Trail. He uses the trail daily. He is concerned about the effect transmission lines might have on the Midland Trace Trail habitat.

“There are animals of all types back there,” he said. “That’ll be destroyed. Anyone who uses the (trail) frequently knows that particular stretch is a really beautiful shaded area that everyone likes to walk through. It will totally not look the same anymore.”

Ruhl has spoken with Duke Energy at public comment sessions as well as local legislators. He suggests Duke Energy remove the Midland Trace Trail route from consideration for the new transmission lines.

Ruhl also is concerned about the impact transmission lines might have on housing values in the area.

“Right now, it’s just a nice looking (trail),” he said.

Ruhl said Duke Energy has been receptive to his comments. Duke Energy sent the following statement to Current Publishing:

Preliminary route segments were identified through an in-depth route study and siting process performed by a team of engineers and environmental specialists. The final route selection will be based on multiple factors, including public input, land use, safety, reliability, cost, and cultural, natural, visual and water resources,” the statement read. “Our goal is to minimize impacts to homes and businesses, the environment, and cultural resources as we work to determine the final routes. We also want to address the questions and concerns of potentially affected property owners and are committed to communicating with the public throughout the process. The company has hosted four virtual open house meetings and one in-person open house meeting, in which more than 250 residents participated. We’ve fielded questions and comments from the community related to the proposed route segments and the project’s impact on the environment, recreation, aesthetics, vegetation and property values, among other topics.”

John Baldwin lives half a block from the trail in the Villages of Oak Manor, a Westfield neighborhood. He uses the trail daily to walk and ride his bicycle.

“One of the things I don’t think most people realize is this trail, with the wetlands on either side of it, is a songbird corridor,” he said. “So, at any given time, you can walk down the trail and or bike down the trail and you’ll encounter orioles, tanagers and the usual kinds of birds we have but also other birds we don’t normally see. Any kind of disruption along that trail could be detrimental to the local bird population.”

Public comment period for the project ends July 21. Duke Energy expects to decide on the routes later this summer. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2024.

“We understand the concerns raised by residents regarding the Midland Trace Trail. Community input is a key piece of our route selection process, and their feedback is being carefully documented and considered,” a statement from Duke Energy read. “No final determinations regarding route segments will be made until the public comment period closes July 21.”

For more, visit duke-energy.com/our-company/about-us/electric-transmission-projects/Noblesville.

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